“We’re even, my dear. Guess today was my lucky day. Getting to talk to a pretty lady like you doesn’t happen often to an old fart like me.” He was already climbing back in his truck and waving. “Have a good evening!”

“Have a good evening,” I whispered, yanking my tote tightly to my chest before running up the steps and knocking quickly on the old door. Red paint was peeling and cracked, and one side of the trim was sagging and mismatched from the others.

“This doesn’t look charming at all…” I was about to cuss under my breath, figuring I’d been dropped off at the wrong place by the old guy whose name I hadn’t even caught, when the door swung wide and a stout little woman greeted me.

“Come in, dear. You’re just in the nick of time. Every county along the coast has lost power. I’ve got all the candles ready for when it hits us here.” Her plump red lips pursed as she lugged my bag into the cramped lobby.

“Oh, you have a nice fire in here. It’s so cozy.” My eyes dragged around the old room: shiplap walls belying the age of the house, Oriental rugs, and traditional New England trinkets decorated every available space.

“Oh, I’m afraid we don’t have any vacancy in the main lodge. I’ve booked you into the little one-room cabin we keep off the pub for emergencies. It used to be the sailor’s quarters when the coast was big into cargo shipments, but now it just goes unused most of the time.” She smiled warmly.

“I’m staying in the captain’s quarters?” I struggled to wrap my head around it. “As long as there’s a bed, I’ll be happy.”

“Yes, of course. There’s a single, and I just added fresh linens. Just follow me.” She waved me down a long hallway, snagging my bag as she went. The floor was uneven, and the heel of my boot caught in a crack. My tote bag was so heavy, I pitched forward and nearly landed head first into the little innkeeper’s backend, when strong arms shot out from a dark closet and righted me.

“You okay there?” The thickest Irish accent I’d ever heard rumbled through my veins.

I shifted, swallowing and trying to gain my balance with the grasp of two hands holding me at my elbows.

I strained to see in the darkness, only the smell of smoky peat and clove with a hint of barley invaded my nostrils. “Th-Thank you.”

“Anytime, love.” His accent was rich, deep, and vibrated through my bones.

“Come on, dear. Watch your step. These old cobblestones can be gnarly.” The little stout woman had pushed open a door, and the sounds of lively Irish music burst through as laughter and cheering hit my ears.

“Don’t mind them. They’re watching the football game—or soccer, as you Americans say. It’s almost over, and things will quiet down enough for you to sleep, I swear.”

The hands released me then, and I spun just in time to catch the door swinging closed, only catching a glimpse of broad shoulders disappearing into what looked like a storage closet.

“Those boots hard to walk in?” The woman pointed to my footwear, a pair of vintage Chanel boots with a low heel. “They wouldn’t fly around here. Too much rain on the coast. Ya know, if you blink, the weather—”

“Changes,” I finished the saying for her, eyes casting around the bar. Only half a dozen guys sat, eyes glued to the television. They’d sounded like an entire Viking football team just a minute ago, but now they were so riveted, listening to the announcer, they were as quiet as church mice.

That changed in an instant when, by the time we’d crossed the room, a player broke out from the pack and began kicking the soccer ball across the field. The goalie blocked the shot, and the men jumped to their feet, hooting and hollering again.

“The captain’s quarters—do they come with ear plugs by chance?” I half joked. I don’t think she heard me. She only climbed a few stone steps and opened another wood door that led into a very tiny, very dark space.

“Welcome home.”

She flicked on a dim light, and I had to prevent tears from forming in my eyes. Only a single bed sat in the corner, and dust and cobwebs gathered at the baseboards, but the linens were fresh, and she’d gone to the trouble of setting out a fuzzy bathrobe and slippers. I forced a smile on my face and set my bag down.

“Thank you,” I breathed, busying myself so she couldn’t see the disappointment radiating in my eyes. I’d get through this. I’d slept in some weird places in my life, especially in college. I just had to get through this storm, get back to Boston, and before I knew it, I’d be back in LA—latte in hand and sunshine on my face.

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